The Chicago Cubs have dealt utility man Emilio Bonifacio, relief pitcher James Russell and cash to the Atlanta Braves in exchange for Victor Caratini, the Braves second round draft pick in 2013.
This is just about a perfect deal for Atlanta, as coming into the day they were in need of a solid backup outfielder and a left handed relief pitcher. Before the deadline it seemed likely they were going to go after one of the Cubs’ lefties, either Russell or Wesley Wright. A word of caution: Russell isn’t the lefty specialist the Braves might have had in mind.
Andrew Miller deal w/@Orioles could clear way for Cubs to trade a lefty. But teams worried that James Russell better against RHB than LHB.
— Phil Rogers (@philgrogers) July 31, 2014
I’ve always found the lefty vs. lefty numbers to be overhyped, and the Braves are likely hoping that’s the case here. This is a franchise who had two lights-out lefties a few years ago in Jonny Venters and Eric O’Flaherty. This year they’ve had no one remotely at that caliber. While Russell isn’t nearly at that level, he does provide a change of pace out of the pen. He’s shown flashes of brilliance in Chicago, but so far this season his line is 3.51 ERA with 7 K/9 and 4.3 BB/9. Again, not at Venters level, but it’ll get the job done and does improve the pen. He’s under team control through 2015.
Where things get exciting though is the addition of Emilio Bonifacio. Bonifacio has bounced around in his career, and he started out the season with the Cubs red hot before tapering off to his current OBP of .318 and 14 stolen bases. But the biggest perk to Bonifacio is his ability to play four positions well and likely six without too much trouble. He’s seen major time at third, second, short, and center field. He’s also capable of covering the corner outfield spots. This gives the Braves some much needed versatility off the bench and even the possibility of starting Bonifacio over the still-woeful B.J. Upton in center.
In exchange, the Braves aren’t giving up much, at least not as much as they’re adding. Christian Bethancourt is regarded as the catcher of the future, so if Caratini was going to join Atlanta in the next few years, he was likely going to have to find a new position. Chicago does have an organizational depth behind the plate, so the Puerto Rican backstop does help address that. Caratini, a 20-year-old switch hitting catcher, is batting .279/.352/.406 with 18 doubles, five homers and 42 RBI for Class A Rome this year. In the updated organizational prospect ratings, Caratini is the 13th best for the Cubs.
Essentially, this trade is a big win for both teams. The Braves improve their bullpen and bench for their upcoming playoff run and the Cubs continue to bolster their farm system with another top prospect.